The NHL Global Series was the first look at an LA Kings roster since their game six defeat against Edmonton in May. The Kings had plenty of departures through trade and those walking to free agency. Plenty of anticipation and apprehension became channeled through each and every fan who has been following the Team. Through late-night viewings, Kings fans enjoyed a taste of living as an East Coast Kings fan. Two games were played, and many players were in both games. I will look at some players who played both games and stood out the most. I will also add an honorable mention that only played once.
Trevor Moore is back to his old ways
Through both games, the most consistent player was the Thousand Oaks native. He returned to his usual ways, with quick pivots and edgework in the corners. McLellan had mentioned that he was back to being himself
“Trevor looked like Trevor was before his injury last year. I think when you see Trevor escaping, and what I mean by that is tight turns, acceleration, beating guys from tight areas into open ice, he’s playing his game. We saw that tonight“Todd McLellan post game
2022-23 was an injury-plagued season for Moore, who struggled to play to his newly acquired contract. I noticed him the most on the Penalty Kill, forcing turnovers and forcing players into more challenging areas for support pickup. He didn’t light up the scoresheet but was equally effective on both ends of the ice. Moore would pick a corner on a nice three-on-two play-up ice, showing patience, deceptiveness, and an excellent release.
He is an impact player, and it is a great sign to see Moore back to his old ways, cementing a solid duo down the lineup with himself and Danault.
Jordan Spence, a legitimate chance to make the Team
Brandt Clarke vs. Jordan Spence battle for the third pair position, and most likely, the PP2 quarterback took a favorable turn towards Spence starting opening night. Spence has played the same game he has played in the QMJHL, the AHL, and now the NHL. He transitions well and makes quick pivots in the corners to evade the forecheck.
The confidence is there to run an NHL powerplay, but I still question his ability to be a shot threat on the powerplay, something both units lack from the point. There were times he tried to break out of his own end too pretty and was bailed out by Cam Talbot. Young player trying to do too much.
Over the two games however, he was the King’s best offensive defenseman and held his own defensively.
Pierre Luc Dubois is the real deal, potentially
Dubois showed off some of his 2way ability during both games, having excellent looks offensively while pressuring the puck carrier up ice to get back into his own zone defensively. His line was dangerous in both games, as McLellan did the same look twice, attempting to further adhere and gel the tantalizing trio together. His puck protection is excellent, as seen throughout his career. My concern is when the defenseman clear the gap up to the wall, Dubois, multiple times in both games, would barely enter the zone and turn his back, facing the boards. Instead of getting the puck deep, he barely enters the zone, attempting to work with little space, opening up the Kings to a dangerous turnover at the blue line. Working with two offensively minded players, Dubois will have to further acclimate and attempt to force more plays down low.
On the power play, Dubois carried over his role from Winnipeg, acting as a net-front presence. He was a pivot on the second powerplay unit, adding to the size and speed of the unit already boasted by Quinton Byfield (6’5). At the end of the first game, Dubois acted as a net-front/bumper that Alex Iafallo enjoyed for most of last year. The role almost ended with a goal when fed by captain Anze Kopitar to tie the game late.
His four-on-four game was equally promising, as he was paired with Kevin Fiala. Time and space given to either player impose an incredible challenge for other teams, and Arizona appeared to be caved in both games when both guys hopped over the boards. However, in each contest, neither was able to cash in. It will take some time to get up to speed on the systems and play with a unique and dynamic player in Kevin Fiala. Dubois will have to continue to get pucks in deep within the new system and will find long-term success by doing so. Based on his initial play with the LA Kings, I expect Dubois to be a Corsi giant.
Kevin Fiala is a force, but a force on the PK?
Fiala has taken the next step in his accomplishments and game-breaking ability list. Trevor Lewis took a penalty in game one; yes, the guy brought over to improve the PK. Near the end of the penalty, ghosts of number 22 were out in the passing lane. Either Fiala has approached the newest trust juncture with McLellan, acting as a shorthanded threat to go the other way, or someone just needed to hop over the boards to take Lewis’ place being a preseason game. Regardless, it shows Fiala has taken his game to another level.
Too quick for Dubois? Dubois has played with superstar Artemi Panarin and elite shooter Kyle Connor during his career. Multiple plays between Fiala and Dubois showed surprise reactions when the puck hit Dubois’ stick. Fiala can find you out of nowhere, and you must be on your toes. Adding a center to play with, like Dubois, will only amplify his overall game. He is more shifty and more assertive on the puck. No doubt he has healed well from his injury last year. Fiala missed a couple opportunities with his patented pull-and-drag move, but undoubtedly, he was a magician with the puck to the point where a player like Dubois was having a hard time following.
Adrian Kempe, is he the new “showtime” in LA?
We all love goals, and in particular, we all love goal scorers on the Kings since they don’t come too often. Kempe was the first 40+ goal scorer on the Kings last year since Luc Robitaille. In both games, Kempe was ripping the puck. He looks just as dangerous as he’s ever been and potentially has another 35+ goal season in him. In game one, Kempe ducked his shoulder and took the puck around an Arizona defender to the net with no goal, but you can see his confidence is brimming.
There are voices from the hockey community expecting a drop-off in goals this upcoming year.
However, Kempe looks to start right where he left off. He has a renewed team that boasts three dangerous lines; I expect him to terrorize matchups at home and still be a threat on the road with the acquisition of Dubois playing alongside Fiala. Could Kempe whiff 50 goals? It’s doubtful, but he has the tools to do so. New showtime in town?
There’s Juice to do it.
Vladislav Gavrikov: a full year of Vladdy
Hands down the most consistent and best overall defenseman during the two games. Gavrikov had excellent gap control and closed on opposing players quickly, something that I expected more from Mikey Anderson. He is easily the best shutdown defenseman that the Kings boast. He showed everything we saw during his stretch with the Kings last year. Regardless of the opposing player, his one-on-one ability is his real strength.
Gavrikov’s superb reads are a stopgap for any serious danger within the defensive zone. He also has an underrated flair for offense, and his pinches keep plays alive without getting burned. A year of Matt Roy and Vladislav Gavrikov will pay dividends for the club.
Honorable Mention: Jacob Moverare
While everyone is paying attention to the righty battle between Clarke and Spence, another spot is wide open. The third pair’s lefty battle is also raging. Tobias Bjornfot, with an incredible opportunity to cement himself as the third pair lefty. Blake brought in contingency players like Kevin Connauton and Andreas Englund to push players like Bjornfot to finally grab the 3LHD. Englund traveled with the Team to Australia, becoming a liability in most situations.
In the second game, Moverare scored a goal off a clapper but was already playing assertive hockey most of the night with other one-timers who didn’t find twine. He showed off a nice one-timer with his already nice compliment of size and ranginess. He has some snarl to his game, coveted in every defensive core. He has previously been disregarded as a potential player to make the roster, including by myself. With his added quickness, outside of his first step, he could contend for the third spot. Bjornfot did not exactly blow us away with his play, and as a first-round pick, the expectations will always be higher. Moverare, the 2016 pick, is a prior SHL champion in Frolunda and has the tangibles necessary to lock down a roster spot. Thus far? Moverare leads the race for 3LHD or, at least, a lock for 7th defenseman.
I’ll watch for Alex Turcotte for the rest of the preseason, as he looked sharp in game two. His speed is excellent, and he is becoming a good support first center. He is reminiscent of Danault in a way that shows shutdown ability but mostly complements the players on his line. While it is improbable he ever lives up to his draft placement, he may be a threat to Jared Anderson-Dolan in an extra forward role that can support a line and help the PK.
More to follow Wednesday vs. Vegas.